31 December 2021

Feeling Pessimistic At Year's End

As we end the year 2021 of the common era, I am probably more pessimistic and worried about the future than I have ever been in my entire life.

This pessimism isn't personal. My personal life is one that most people can only dream about. My daughter earned a STEM degree from a top liberal arts college in three years, has found a decent job, and has moved in with her pretty decent boyfriend of several years. My son has a year and a half left before he graduates from an Ivy League college with a STEM degree, had a wonderful internship in his major last summer and has another even better one lined up for this summer, has a study abroad lined up, and has a truly wonderful girlfriend. My wife and I have a modest sized but well appointed home that we love that is just right for us, in a good neighborhood, in a good city and state. We are reasonably financially secure. My self-employment as an attorney is intellectually challenging and I have a decent work-life balance. I have an employee who is happy with her job. Our family's health is decent and when we have issues we have a "gold" class health care plan to deal with it. We are on good terms with out extended family and I know what is going on in the lives of a large share of the friends I've had in life. Life isn't perfect, and at some point I may pivot to make it better, either in a big way, or in many little ways, but I can't complain.

But the prospects that I see for my nation and my world are far more bleak.

The United States was once the world model of a well functioning democracy. Now, we have been downgraded in international comparisons to a semi-democracy, falling from a 10 on a ten point scale to a 5. We survived a coup attempt led by an incumbent President who had lost the election on January 6. A large share of the Republican party no longer cares about what voters want, and are happy to cheat and use violence to obtain their political ends. Gerrymandering and legislation to suppress voting by the poor and minorities has become the order of the day. Compromise and a sense of the common good are gone. Foundational beliefs about the importance of the democratic process have evaporated. Civility and respect for the office by members of one of our two political parties has vanished. Republicans no longer care about corruption and political malfeasance. 

Maybe a third of our voters and close to half of our elected officials have completely disconnected from facts and reality. They have gone to war with science, with experts, with reality based media, and with higher education.

We are at high risk of a future coup or civil war as measured by the metrics that the CIA uses to predict these events in other countries.

It will probably get worse before it gets better on this front. 

The political balance in Congress is as tight as it can get. While Democrats control the Presidency, the U.S. House (by a thin margin), and the U.S. Senate (solely by virtue of a Vice-President who can resolve 50-50 tie votes), a couple of conservative Democrats in the Democratic caucus have prevented the Democrats from enacting the agenda that 96% of their elected officials share.

Democrats have come up two or three Senators short of being able to end the filibuster, of being able to pass fair election laws, of being able to undue immense tax cuts for the rich passed in the Trump administration, of being able to grant the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood, of being able to expand the U.S. Supreme Court to redress its overwhelming and unrepresentative conservative majority, and so much more.

It is likely that Republicans will make gains in the midterm elections, even though they don't have the support of a majority of voters in the nation. Unlike President Biden and the Democrats who hold the swing votes in the U.S. Senate, they have no scruples that prevent them from sacrificing the needs of the nation for their party's own political gains.

Our nation can't even reach a political consensus on basics, like the scientifically proven steps necessary to prevent the harm arising from COVID-19. The third of the population or so that is disconnected from reality is refusing to get highly effective vaccinations, and is disdaining other measures that can be used to control the spread of the virus like wearing masks in public, social distancing, and avoiding large public gatherings when possible. The lion's share of people who are hospitalized or die from COVID-19 are now members of this anti-vax, reality denying subculture. About 75-80% of those dying of COVID or being hospitalized now are unvaccinated Republicans.

A 6-3 hyper-conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, secured through dirty legislative tricks, is bit by bit rolling back well established legal rights. Roe v. Wade will probably be overruled this summer after being settled law for 48 years. The impact of this could be dramatic and pervasive, affecting almost half the country in a matter of days or weeks.

Global climate change is no longer just a threat on the horizon. We are already experiencing droughts, wildfires, and unprecedented levels of extreme weather events. It is too late to stop it, and progress at even slowing it down have been haphazard at best. This week's Marshall Fire is just the latest in a string of consequences for our inaction.

There are concrete ways that greater gun control and more accountability for law enforcement, could greatly reduce an orgy of senseless gun deaths, like the mass killing by a far right racist misogynist in Denver who clearly telegraphed his intentions for years in advance. But so far, the hyper-conservative Supreme Court's commitment to individual Second Amendment rights to bear arms, and Republican politicians have thwarted most efforts to do something about it.

Republicans are intent on keeping their poor people poor, sick, insecure, and uneducated, because it is people in that situation who vote for them, and because they feel that they can do so in a way that benefits rich donors. Instead they have encouraged and fostered conditions that have led to a surge in deaths of despair from narcotic overdoses and suicide so numerous that life expectancy is actually falling in white rural America.

Our failure to rethink and reform the basis of our economy has led homelessness and deaths among the homeless, most often from opioid overdoses, to surge.

The political right in America has become so cynical and disaffected that it is content to be evil. It has no conscience or empathy. It continues to want to drown the government in a bathtub, even though they are the disproportionate beneficiaries of its largesses. Their "pro-business" policies drive Red States into poverty and economic decline, while the "anti-business" policies of Blue States leave Democratic parts of the country with twice the per capita GDP as Republican leaning areas. The advance policies that consistently lead to more, entirely predictable and preventable deaths and misery and despair, even as their own constituents would benefit the most, materially, from Democratic Party economic policies.

Republicans have abandoned conservative, principled ideology for populism and hate. President Trump flamed the fires, but mostly, he simply gave a deplorable third of Americans permission to show what has long been their true colors.

The problems aren't confined to the United States either. Authoritarians are on the rise in global politics from Russia to Turkey to Syria to China to Eastern Europe. The most powerful military forces in the world that are not aligned with the U.S., in Russia, in China, in Iran, and in North Korea are taking provocative actions and receiving little meaningful pushback. The Ukraine, Belarus, Taiwan and the East China Sea are in their cross-hairs. Brutal wars persist in Ethiopia and Yemen and the African Sahel and the Congo. Afghanistan has collapsed now that the U.S. has left it after two decades and fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Right wing extremists have gained power in Myanmar and Turkey, in Hungary and in Poland. Secessionist movements have grown hot in Scotland within the United Kingdom (following its departure from the European Union) and in Spain. Hong Kong's Western style political economy is in the process of being crushed before our eyes. There have been few positive developments in the other direction.

Not all hope is lost. 

Federal prosecutors and judges have held hundreds of people involved in the January 6, 2021 coup attempt responsible criminally. Court has severely sanctioned lawyers who unethically abused the legal process in an effort to undermine the November 2020 Presidential election results. Congressional investigations have flushed out the malfeasance that was at work in this effort to thwart election results. Defamation litigation has punished some of the bad actors contributing to the disinformation that has harmed our political system. The U.S. House has sanctioned some of the bad actors within its own ranks seriously. 

Other prosecutors and lawmakers are finally making serious efforts to hold bad cops and violent right wing extremists responsible in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Some progress has been made at the state level in Blue States as national level gridlock has continued.

Almost everyone in the U.S. who has been willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has been vaccinated with impressive results in terms of prevented cases of "long COVID", prevented hospitalizations, and prevented deaths. 

Big automobile makers and utility companies worldwide, and new entrants to these markets, spurred on by government and public pressure, and facilitated by long anticipated technological breakthroughs, are bringing us ever closer to transitioning to electric cars and a greener power grid.

The response to COVID-19 dented mass incarceration in the U.S. Marijuana legalization and a better approach to the war on drugs have gained almost irreversible and bipartisan momentum. Outright attempts to roll back gains for gay rights haven't gained much traction yet. The Biden administration has used the regulatory state to expand access to abortion drugs just as surgical abortion measures are on the bring of being shut down entirely or greatly restricted in most of the South and much of the Midwest. 

Medical science continues to come up with new ways to deal with serious health threats. More and more Americans are becoming non-religious at the expense of increasingly politicized white Christian denominations. Backward views are heavily concentrated in older Americans who are dying off bit by bit, while more forward thinking younger people come of age. Migration out of the rust belt may be making a lot of blue states lose population and become more conservative, but these migrants are also bringing new liberal voices to red states, moderating them politically.

The decline in the coal industry has left one of the stalwart pillars of conservatism in American politics in its death throes. The transition to the electric car and greener power grids could deal a similar blow to the global oil and gas industry.

Foreign politics hasn't yet exploded into international wars yet. Islamic terrorism and movements for theocratic government in the Islamic world outside the African Sahel have mostly faded. The march of economic development has lifted many hundreds of millions of people out of dire poverty, especially in China, The demographic transition that has accompanied economic development worldwide has largely defused the "population bomb" that used to be a great worry. The Internet has helped connect people around the globe to each other on a person to person and business to consumer level that has made foreigners less alien and bound the world more tightly together. Not all democracies are as deeply flawed and uniquely vulnerable as the United States.

Still, in the end analysis, I remain more pessimistic for our nation and our world's future than I have ever been.

The Marshall Fire

The Marshall Fire around Superior and Louisville in Boulder County, Colorado has destroyed more than 580 homes (UPDATE: closer to 1000) already, more than any other fire in Colorado history, despite its relatively moderate 1600 acre scope so far (UPDATE: 6000 acres). Probably 1500 or more people in the metro area are now newly homeless.

The seven worst by the measure of homes destroyed have happened since 2010, and all of the top ten have occurred since 2002. As the article linked above explains:

Officials say the Marshall fire, burning in Boulder County, has burned more than 500 homes, which would make it the most destructive fire in Colorado in terms of the number of homes destroyed.

1. Black Forest fire, Colorado Springs • 2013 — 489 homes
2. Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado Springs • 2012 — 347 homes
3. East Troublesome fire, Grand County • 2020 — 300+ homes
4. High Park fire, Larimer County • 2012 — 259 homes
5. Cameron Peak fire, Walden • 2020 — 224 homes
6. Fourmile Canyon fire, Boulder County • 2010 — 169 homes
7. Spring Creek fire, Costilla and Huerfano counties • 2018 — 141 homes
8. Hayman fire, Lake George • 2002 — 133 homes
9. Iron Mountain fire, Cañon City • 2002 — 106 homes
10. Missionary Ridge fire, Durango • 2002 — 56 homes

Looking at various accounts, so far only 6-9 injuries have resulted from the Marshall Fire, but more than 30,000 people have been forced to evacuate, including at least one or two hospitals. (The high winds caused a building to collapse elsewhere in the metro area injuring six more people.)

This hits close to home. It is about twenty miles away from my home and we are in no danger. But, for example, I have 130 Facebook friends in or near the affected area. At least one of them has lost her home entirely.

The Marshall Fire was still burning largely uncontrolled as of the last news reports of this evening. Snow is in the forecast starting at 11 a.m. today (December 31), and most of New Year's Day. Ebbing winds, snow, and bitter cold conditions forecast for New Year's Day should allow the mostly uncontrolled so far fire to be contained.

Usually, fire season is in hot mid-summer in Colorado. But this wild fire is burning bright on the last two days of December. Hurricane force winds started the originally grass based fire when power lines were brought down. The winds also prevented fire fighters from using aircraft to suppress the fires.

This year had significantly below normal rainfall (not quite 20% below normal), and last year was worse (close to 40% below normal). The last half of the year has been particularly dry. The National Weather Service notes in a tweet that:

One of the many factors that lead to the devastating wildfire today is the recent record dryness. For all periods from Jul 1st to Dec 29th (essentially the second half of the year), Denver has been the driest on record by over an inch. Snowfall is at record low levels, too.

Historical contemporaneously recorded weather records for Denver go back to 1872. We've had just 1.08 inches of precipitation from July 1, 2021 to December 29, 2021 (and no precipitation yesterday either).  

For the most part, rainfall at lower elevations isn't all that important. Most of our critical water supplies come from the mountain snowpack in the South Platte River watershed. 

But dry weather in the foothills and on the plains does create a tinder dry environment prone to extreme wildfires like this one.

More than twenty of Colorado's worst wildfires in the historical record (by any measure) have been recent. There is no reasonable doubt at this point that this record streak of extreme wildfires is mostly driven by global climate change. This is the worst it has been for more than a thousand years in this region, and maybe further back than that. Past bouts of aridity of this scale have destroyed whole civilizations in the historical and prehistoric record repeatedly.

30 December 2021

Reflections On Today's Bible Readings

Today's Bible Readings

I read some Bible passages today, prompted by some Facebook posts from a Christian friend that contained only citations to Bible passages without their text, forcing me to look them up to understand them.

Reading the Bible was the first things that put me on the path to not believing in god. Some of it is just whacky. 

For example, in one of the less hackney'd examples, from the Torah, the Amalekites were smitten before Amalek (the son of Esau, from whom they are descended) was born. See Genesis 14:7 and Genesis 36:12.

But before reading the Bible put me on that path, reading the Bible put me on the path of not wanting to worship that God, even if that God existed, even post-Jesus. (I make that distinction, by the way, because doctrinally, most Christians seek to side step the ugly bits of the Hebrew Bible in their theology, by asserting that the death of Jesus gave rise to a "New Covenant" that repealed the Biblical laws of the Hebrew Bible, at least for Christians, in favor of the updated, more general, more humane, and less petty divine laws espoused by Jesus Christ in the Gospels.)

For example, the Bible, even post-Jesus, in a passage that I read today, is certainly not advocating in any clear way for the abolition of slavery. Consider, for example, Ephesians 6:5 which states:
Slaves, obey your owners, with fear and trembling, as though they were Christ. When you serve them, you are serving God.

The Torah isn't any better on the issue of slavery, of course. Abraham, for example, whom Jews, Christians and Muslims alike recognize as the first person to worship God and their patriarch of all of their faiths, had 318 slaves. Genesis 14:14. The Torah also explains that the children of a female slave belong to her master even if her master has allowed her to marry someone else. Exodus 21:4. It also provides that a man may sell his daughter into slavery and if she doesn't please her new master she should be sold again to a foreign land. Exodus 21:7-8. Similarly, Biblical law set forth in the Torah provides that if a man beats his slave so badly that the slave dies after a day or two, this should be punished because his slave is his property. Exodus 21:20-21.

The post-Jesus part of the Bible certainly isn't a fan of gender equality in marriage (or outside of marriage, for that matter) either. 

Consider, for example, Ephesians 5:22-24 and 5:33 (part), which I was reading today to provide context for one of my Christian friend's Bible citation from the same New Testament epistle, which states:

Wives, submit to you husbands, as you would to God. Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. So wives must obey their husbands in everything. . . . let every woman revere her husband.

The Torah's take on marriage itself, of course, is also more than a little bit off. 

Consider, for example, the marriage of Abraham and Sarah, his half-sister, which God blesses, even though God later condemns incestuous marriages, which is discussed, for example, in Genesis 12:13, 16:1-6, 17:15-16, 21:10-14. Sarah can't manage to get pregnant, so she tells her husband to have sex with her handmaid, Hagar, whenever he wants and to have children through her, which he successfully does. Sarah, however, gets jealous when Abraham does what his wife told him to do, causing Sarah to treat Hagar so harshly that Hagar flees their home. Once Sarah manages to give birth to Isaac on her own, however, Sarah cast out Hagar (now described as a "bondwoman") and Abraham's eldest son with Hagar, Ishmael, so Abraham takes them into the wilderness to die. 

Four decades or so later, I am led to the same conclusions and wonder why more people don't react the same way. Indeed, the further away you get from being a church goer who hears these passages and the doctrines woven from them on a weekly basis, the more absurd they seem.

The Disconnect Between Scripture And Lived Culture

It took much longer, until I was in college, to realize that what the sacred writings of a faith say, and how that translates into the living culture of people who adhere to a particular religious faith feel their religion tells them to act, have virtually nothing to do with each other. At a minimum, it is impossible to discern what lived faith will look like from scriptures and holy writings.

For example, why are so few Rabbinical Jews polygamous?

You would certain assume that this was the norm for Jews from reading the Hebrew Bible, including the Torah, in which many, if not most of the main figures and secondary figures in the narrative, are polygamous. 

Consider one random example that I noted in my reading today (to provide context for one of my friend's citations to a verse in the Second Book of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible). Rehoboam, the son of Solomon strong, took 18 wives and 60 concubines with whom he had 28 sons and 60 daughters. Second Chronicles 11:17-21.

Yeah, Rehoboam was a king, and it's good to be the king. But these practices certainly weren't confined to royalty in the Hebrew Bible. 

For example, Abraham, the first Jew, for example, in addition to having his first child Ishmael, with his wife's "bondservant" also has several concubines. Genesis 25:6. Abraham's grandson Easu, has three wives. Genesis 26:34 and 28:9. Easu's brother (also Abraham's grandson) Jacob, has two wives (who are sisters of each other), and also has children with each of his wives' handmaids. Genesis 29:18-30:9.  In general, the Torah approves of taking a second wife so long as a man continues to feed and cloth and have sex with his first wife too. Exodus 21:10-11.

One of the wonders of the fact that the Bible is a written document is that practices from the Iron Age and Antiquity are frozen in time, with God's sacred stamp of approval. And, one of the wonders of lived religion is how billions of people have no problem collectively and selectively ignore these facts, and yet claim that their scriptures are a source of absolute unchanging truth.

29 December 2021

Accountability Works

According to the nonprofit organization Airwars, the U.S. has conducted more than 91,000 airstrikes in seven major conflict zones since 2001, with at least 22,000 civilians killed and potentially as many as 48,000.

How does America react when it kills civilians? Just last week, we learned that the U.S. military decided that nobody will be held responsible for the August 29 drone attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 members of an Afghan family, including seven children. After an internal review, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin chose to take no action, not even a wrist slap for a single intelligence analyst, drone operator, mission commander, or general. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby bizarrely said, “We acknowledge that there were procedural breakdowns” but that “it doesn’t necessarily indicate that an individual or individuals have to be held to account.” . . .

U.S. bombings since 2014 have consistently killed civilians but that the Pentagon has done almost nothing to discern how many were harmed or what went wrong and might be corrected. As Khan noted, “It was a system that seemed to function almost by design to not only mask the true toll of American airstrikes but also legitimize their expanded use.” . . .

Impunity tends to begin at the top. No American general has been disciplined for overseeing the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor for lying to Congress about these disasters. The opposite has occurred: Stars have usually been added to their shoulders, and when they retire from the military, they tend to march into well-paid positions as board members in the weapons industry or elsewhere (even though they are not strapped for resources, thanks to pensions that can reach $250,000 a year). The reputation-protection racket is so galling that an Army officer who served two tours in Iraq wrote a now-famous article in 2007 that noted: “A private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” . . .

We should not be surprised. We are a society that excels in elite unaccountability. Just look at the number of bank CEOs who faced criminal charges after the 2008 financial collapse (zero), or the number of Sackler family members who were criminally charged after their company, Purdue Pharma, started the opioid epidemic with OxyContin (also zero), or the number of billionaires who avoid paying income taxes (lots of them). And let’s not forget the politicians and pundits who goaded America into an illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and suffered no consequences. . . . .

Military impunity is somewhat unique because it stretches downward, too. If an intelligence analyst or drone operator or fighter pilot follows orders and procedures for an airstrike that kills dozens of civilians in a wedding party — which has happened — they need to be excused of wrongdoing. After all, who gave the orders, and who set the procedures? These questions would require looking up the chain of command, and for that reason, they are not asked with any intention of finding the answers. That’s why it was with no sense of alarm that secret military documents published by The Intercept in 2015 noted that in a two-year campaign called Operation Haymaker, 9 of 10 Afghans killed in U.S. drone strikes were not the intended targets. For the U.S., this was the acceptable cost of doing business.

The Pentagon’s culture of impunity for killing civilians stands in contrast to its zealous pursuit of soldiers for other offenses.

The Pentagon’s culture of impunity for killing civilians stands in contrast to its zealous pursuit of soldiers for other offenses. Unlike the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the financial industry, or the IRS, which oversees taxpayers, or the Senate and House ethics committees, which keep an eye on members of Congress, the U.S. military has wide authority and deep resources to impose an array of penalties, from pay reductions to loss of rank and death sentences. The military avidly uses these powers, too. In 2020 alone, there were more than 37,000 cases of discipline in the armed forces, and since 2001, there have been more than 1.3 million cases.

Yet these powers have been used sparingly or not at all when it comes to airstrikes that kill civilians. One of the worst massacres in two decades of warfare occurred not long ago, on March 18, 2019, when U.S. warplanes dropped bombs that killed scores of civilians, mostly women and children, in an Islamic State enclave in Syria. The carnage was immediately apparent. As the Times reported last month, an analyst who watched the attack on a drone video typed into a secure chat system, “Who dropped that?” Another analyst wrote, “We just dropped on 50 women and children.” A quick battle assessment settled on 70 people killed.

A legal officer flagged it as a possible war crime that warranted an investigation. . . . “but at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike.” The Pentagon’s inspector general looked into what happened, but even its report was “stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike.” An evaluator who worked on the inspector general’s report, Gene Tate, was forced out of his job after complaining about the lack of progress and honesty. Tate told the Times: “Leadership just seemed so set on burying this.”

I could go on for thousands of words describing other airstrikes that killed civilians and resulted in no discipline or slight reprimands that were issued only after embarrassing reports from news organizations and human rights groups. For instance, there was a 2015 airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 patients and staffers; the military’s reluctant discipline included counseling and retraining for some of the personnel involved. The point is this: A military establishment that has enthusiastically enforced requirements for things as petty as wearing a reflector belt while jogging has consistently failed to discipline soldiers for wrongful bombings that its own battle assessments acknowledge have killed civilians.

The machinery of impunity actually has two missions: The most obvious is to excuse people who should not be excused. The other is to punish those who try to expose the machine, because it does not function well in daylight. That’s why Daniel Hale, an Air Force veteran whom the government accused of leaking those classified drone documents to The Intercept, was sentenced under the Espionage Act to nearly four years in prison. It is not the act of killing civilians that will result in definite and heavy punishment, but exposing the act of killing.

In 1992, I interviewed a Muslim girl in Bosnia who had been raped. “The Višegrad warlord took a fancy to her,” I later wrote, “and one night dragged her and her younger sister away from their mother, who of course was crying hysterically and holding onto the legs of the warlord, who kicked her away and shouted, ‘I am the law.’”

The warlord’s name was Milan Lukić, and he was one of the most evil men in a war that had a surplus of them. He killed women and children with particular ruthlessness, one time setting fire to a house in which 59 civilians were sheltering; they all perished. But Lukić was saying one honest thing when he kidnapped the sisters: He was the law. His paramilitary thugs had a monopoly on violence in Višegrad and the full support of Serb political and military authorities. At the time, I didn’t imagine that their crimes would catch up with any of them. . . .

Yet the impunity that seemed eternal in Bosnia turned out to be short-lived, at least for the elites of criminality. Lukić is now in prison with a life sentence, thanks to his conviction at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity. Key wartime leaders were extradited to the Hague too. Slobodan Milošević, the president of Serbia, died of a heart attack before his trial concluded, but Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, the political and military leaders of Bosnia’s Serbs, were convicted of genocide.

America in 2021 is not Serbia in 1995. Our machinery of impunity is not susceptible to pressure from larger nations. But the journalists, whistleblowers, and researchers who have done the hard work of exposing its lies — they are still at work. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the more these people uncover, the harder they toil. I wouldn’t bet against them.

The good news is that an empirical analysis shows that ending abuses by the military-intelligence complex has a fairly straightforward solution: accountability. 

Decision-making in intelligence matters is often assumed to be an extra-legal process. This article however shows that the determining factor in compliance is a legal one: the likelihood of the state being held effectively accountable for a breach of international law. Through a behavioural analysis of state conduct in intelligence matters and the modelling of intelligence decision-making, the article demonstrates that state behaviour in intelligence matters can be explained and predicted. Taking compliance as the standard for assessing the effectiveness of regulation, this finding has strategic implications for the actors of the international legal order attempting to enhance compliance. Specifically, increasing the likelihood of effective accountability increases the probability of compliance and decreases the weight given to extra-legal and domestic considerations in decision-making, regardless of the activity and state considered. Hence, rather than focussing on the regulatory framework itself (international law), regulatory approaches aiming to enhance compliance should focus on improving accountability.

Quote of the Day

Not a shocking conclusion, but it captures an insight I've never articulately quite like this author does, which rings true.

Judges frequently resort to three adjudicative tools to decide cases: precedent, principles, and presumptions. First, courts consider precedent and draw analogies between past decisions and the case before them. Second, judges evaluate legal principles. They employ multi-factor balancing tests and frameworks to reconcile competing principles. Third, judges create presumptions that ease evidentiary burdens and provide default ways to resolve disputes. . . .
Presumptions correct legal frameworks and multi-factor balancing tests that misfire, support principled asymmetries, promote access to justice, and shape choice architecture in adjudication.
- Terry Skolnik, Precedent, Principles, and Presumptions 54:3 UBC Law Review 935 (2021).

28 December 2021

Looking For A Word

Is there a word for someone who doesn't believe in god (or is agnostic about the possibility), and wouldn't worship the ones that the vast majority of people worship if they were wrong?

Is there a word for someone who believes in a god  or gods, and actively chooses not to worship that god, or those gods, because that god or those gods are morally repugnant?

19 December 2021

Google Is By Far The Least Conspiracy Theory Leaning Search Engine

Google searches favor reality over conspiracy theories, while Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and Yandex do not. 

Fortunately for reality, Google has a 91.4% market share, Bing 3.14%, Yahoo 1.53%, Yandex 0.94%, and DuckDuckGo 0.66%. (The study did not consider the Baidu search engine with a 1.76% market share.)
Web search engines are important online information intermediaries that are frequently used and highly trusted by the public despite multiple evidence of their outputs being subjected to inaccuracies and biases. One form of such inaccuracy, which so far received little scholarly attention, is the presence of conspiratorial information, namely pages promoting conspiracy theories. 
We address this gap by conducting a comparative algorithm audit to examine the distribution of conspiratorial information in search results across five search engines: Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and Yandex. Using a virtual agent-based infrastructure, we systematically collect search outputs for six conspiracy theory-related queries (“flat earth”, “new world order”, “qanon”, “9/11”, “illuminati”, “george soros”) across three locations (two in the US and one in the UK) and two observation periods (March and May 2021). 
We find that all search engines except Google consistently displayed conspiracy-promoting results and returned links to conspiracy-dedicated websites in their top results, although the share of such content varied across queries. Most conspiracy-promoting results came from social media and conspiracy-dedicated websites while conspiracy-debunking information was shared by scientific websites and, to a lesser extent, legacy media. The fact that these observations are consistent across different locations and time periods highlight the possibility of some search engines systematically prioritizing conspiracy-promoting content and, thus, amplifying their distribution in the online environments.
From here paper by Aleksandra Urmana, Mykola Makhortykhb, Roberto Ulloac, and Juhi Kulshrestha.

The Seven Years' War

Europe from 1748-1766

Map of European colonies in North America, c. 1750. Disputes over territorial claims persisted after the end of King George's War in 1748.

Almost all of the material in this post is sourced from Wikipedia, with much of it copied or heavily paraphrased, but significantly culled and rearranged, except the section on casualties which draws its data but not most of its language from Wikipedia.

When Was The Seven Years' War?

The Seven Years War lasted from May 17, 1756 – February 15, 1763 (6 years, 8 months, 4 weeks and 1 day), parts of which were called the French and Indian War in North America, and the Third Carnatic War in India.

What Was The End Result Of The Seven Years War?

* The status quo remained in place in Europe and West Africa (where Britain had attempted to oust France from its colonies in GoréeSenegal, and Gambia), but with the perceived power of France and the Austrian Hapsburgs diminished, and that of England and Prussia enhanced.

* Diplomatic resolutions changed control of many colonies, some of which had little or no involvement in the conflict itself (e.g. the Philippines).

Mughal Empire cedes Bengal to Great Britain.

* France and Spain return conquered colonial territory to Great Britain and Portugal.

* France cedes its North American possessions east of the Mississippi River, Canada, the islands of St. VincentTobagoDominica, and Grenada, and the Northern Circars in India to Great Britain.

* France cedes Louisiana and its North American territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain.

* Spain cedes Florida and Manila to Great Britain.

Where Did The Fighting Take Place?

Mostly in Central Europe, in North America (mostly in the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada), the Caribbean, and in India. There were comparatively minor battles at sea and near coastal areas in the Baltics, Britain, France, Portugal, and French West Africa.

The large-scale conflict that drew in most of the European powers centered on Austria's desire to recover Silesia, which it had lost in 1747, from the Prussians, in which it ultimately failed. In the European theater, seeing the opportunity to curtail Britain's and Prussia's ever-growing power, France and Austria put aside their ancient rivalry to form a coalition of their own. Faced with this sudden turn of events, Britain aligned herself with Prussia; this alliance drew in not only the British king's territories in personal union, including Hanover, and also those of his relatives in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg and the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel.

In India, the Mughal Empire, with the encouragement of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal

In the Americas, the same coalitions prevailed. At the start of the war, the French colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 settlers of whom 10,000 were mobilized in a militia, compared with 2 million in the British colonies which fielded 42,000 soldiers. Both sides added a First Nation partner. Abenaki, an Algonquin speaking tribe, joined with the French. The Abenaki, who were also known as "People of the Dawn", lived in, or had been displaced by, English settlers in the Atlantic colonies. The Iroquois, or Five Nations, joined with the British. The Iroquois, who lived predominantly in lands controlled by the French, wrought havoc on the European trade routes and settlements. The outnumbered French particularly depended on the natives.

In the West Indies, the British and Spanish fought for control of key points in the Caribbean trade routes, particularly the Windward Passage and Havana.

What Caused The Seven Years' War?

In Europe, the conflict arose from issues left unresolved by the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748), over territorial disputes between Prussia and Austria, which wanted to regain Silesia after it was captured by Prussia in the previous war, and Prussia seeking greater dominance. 

Long-standing colonial rivalries pitting Britain against France and Spain in North America and the Caribbean islands were fought on a grand scale with consequential results. 

Austria ended centuries of conflict by allying with France, along with Saxony, Sweden and Russia. Spain aligned formally with France in 1762. Spain unsuccessfully attempted to invade Britain's ally Portugal, attacking with their forces facing British troops in Iberia. Smaller German states either joined the Seven Years' War or supplied mercenaries to the parties involved in the conflict.

Anglo-French conflict over their colonies in North America had begun in 1754 in what became known in the United States as the French and Indian War, a nine-year war that ended France's presence as a land power. Spain entered the war in 1761, joining France in the Third Family Compact between the two Bourbon monarchies. The alliance with France was a disaster for Spain, with the loss to Britain of two major ports, Havana in the Caribbean and Manila in the Philippines, returned in the 1763 Treaty of Paris between France, Spain and Great Britain. 

What Was The Scale Of The Military Conflict?

Several million soldiers and sailors worldwide served in the conflict at some point, although the peak number of combatants at any given point in time was probably under one million.

There were twenty-six major land battles in Europe. The biggest was the Battle of Villinghausen from July 15-16, 1761 in what is now West Germany, in which 60,000 Anglo-Prussian forces (1,600 died) faced 100,000 French-Austrian forces (5,000 died), and the British forces ultimately prevailed. The most deadly battle in the war was the Battle of Kunersdorf in present day Poland on August 12, 1759 in which 18,503 of 49,000 Anglo-Prussian forces died and 15,741 of 98,000 Franco-Austrian troops died leading to a Russo-Austrian victory.

There were eleven major land battles in what would become the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, with about 13,000 British and Native American casualties and about 18,500 French, Spanish and Native American casualties. The Siege of Fort William Henry near the New York-Quebec border was the most deadly killing 10,716 troops combined on August 3-9, 1757 and resulting in a French victory at a heavy cost in lives. 

There were one major land battle in the Caribbean, the Siege of Havanna from June 6 to August 13, 1762, in addition to some minor ones that involved 31,000 British forces on 31 ships and 160 transports, and 11,670 Spanish forces with 14 ships and 100 merchant ships. On the British side there were 5,366 killed, wounded, captured, missing, sick, or died of disease, and three ships lost. All of the Spanish forces were killed, wounded, captured, missing, sick, or died of disease and all of the Spanish ships were captured.

In India, there were seven major land battles. The British lost the first battle of Calcutta while inflicting disproportionate casualties on the Mughals. The British won to more battles against the Mughals and inflicted disproportionate casualties, despite being vastly outnumbered. The British then won four more battles against French-sepoy forces, against whom they were more equally matched.

How Many Casualties Were There?

About 764,000 people were killed in the Seven Years' War on all sides combined, worldwide, and perhaps another 136,000 were disabled, for about 900,000 serious casualties combined, worldwide.

For comparison purposes, the number of deaths on both sides of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) were about 500,000 with another 350,000 disabled.

About 16,000 of the deaths were in India, about 40,000 were in North America and Caribbean, and the remaining 708,000 were in Europe, with a supermajority of those in Central Europe. 

The European powers involved had a combined population of about 106 million at the time. 

There were about 2.5 million people (British, Spanish, French and Native American) in the area involved in conflict in North America and the Caribbean.

The Moghal Empire in India had a population of about 158 million people at the time.

The area of West Africa involved in the conflict probably had several hundred thousand to a million people at the time.

Casualties Among Europeans and European Colonists

There were 180,000 Prussian soldiers and 33,000 Prussian civilians killed. 

The British had 1,512 battle deaths and 60,000 who died or were discharged as unfit for service (perhaps 50,000 dead and 10,000 disabled), for a combined 20% of soldiers who served in the war.

There were 32,622 Austrians killed in battle, 93,404 Austrians who died of wounds or diseases, and 17,388 Austrians disabled. 

There were 200,000 French soldiers killed, about 20% of French soldiers who served in the war.

There were 28,000 Swedish soldiers killed. 

There were 25,000 killed in other parts of the Holy Roman Empire. 

There were 138,000 Russians and 34,000 Spanish troops were killed, disabled, missing, or captures (based upon the proportions in other forces, perhaps half of them were killed).

Some Portuguese troops were killed in fighting in Iberia in a small number of battles that did not kill a great number of people.

Native American Deaths

Something on the order of 10,000 Native Americans were killed in the North American part of the war (although this estimate is not very precise). The number of Native Americans in British North America at the time was on the order of 52,000 to 100,000, with a probably similar or smaller number of French North America.

The French and Indian War probably killed between 5%-15% of the total Native American population in the region of the conflict, with the participating tribal allies hit harder.

Deaths In India

About 9,000 Mughal troops were killed in India. About one in six of them who fought in the two battles in Calcutta died, and about 1% of those who fought in the Battle of Plassey on June 23, 1757 died. 

15 December 2021

Another Military Procurement Fail

The legacy Marine Corps "Amphibious Assault Vehicles" (AAV) require immense maintenance and have profound readiness issues as a result. Their new "Amphibious Combat Vehicle" (ACV) replacement has also been taken out of commission because it doesn't work properly. 


The good news is that there hasn't been a militarily important amphibious assault by the U.S. military since the Korean War, about seven decades ago, and the last such assault of any kind was in Kuwait, about three decades ago. And, none of the places where the U.S. Marine Corps is most likely to deploy in the near future require this capability. So, the U.S. military can probably manage without this resource for now. For now, this is just a colossal waste of time and money. 

The Marine Corps has permanently pulled amphibious assault vehicles from “regularly scheduled deployments” due to concerns over vehicle safety and resources allocation . . . . After a tragic July 2020 sinking that killed nine troops, AAV operations had been halted. But the Marine Corps renewed its waterborne operations in the spring of 2021, believing the issues had been fixed and operational requirements had been improved. . . . In September the Marine Corps beached the AAV’s replacement, the amphibious combat vehicle, due to issues with its towing mechanism. Stenger said the ACV is still prevented from conducting waterborne operations, leaving the Corps with no amphibious landing vehicles that it can train with in the water. . . . The thorough inspection, based off of initial tests developed by the manufacturers, found that nearly all AAVs in the Marine Corps leaked at unacceptable rates.

Only 10 of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion’s nearly 200 vehicles passed the more intense inspection, Operations Officer Marine Maj. Justin Davis said while testifying at a board of inquiry for the unit’s former battalion commander, Lt. Col. Keith Brenize, on Dec. 7 at Quantico, Virginia. He said he believed the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion did slightly better than his battalion. . . . AAVs are extremely maintenance heavy,” he added, noting that an AAV typically requires eight hours of maintenance for every hour of operation.

Another report add this analysis:

The Marine Corps received their new ACVs in 2020 and slowly began phasing out the AAV, which by 2020 had been in service for nearly half a century. However, the road to fielding an AAV replacement has been rocky.

An earlier AAV replacement called the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) attempted to combine all of the Corps’ desires onto one platform: the EFV sported a powerful 30 mm cannon and was incredibly fast on water thanks to a retractable bow flap that gave the EFV speedboat-like speeds. In addition, twin water jets at the EFV’s rear powered the vehicle while in the water, and retractable flaps covered the EFV’s tracks in the water, giving it a very smooth underwater profile.

Despite high hopes and high performance while on land or maneuvering at sea, the EFV was plagued with reliability problems, and breakdowns were common. Moreover, the Marine Corps’ focus on land warfare after 9/11, coupled with the program’s ballooning cost, ultimately led the Corps to ax the program.

Though in USMC service, the new ACV is far from perfect. One Marine Corps evaluation called for several modifications to the vehicle, including a modified troop commander station to aid vehicle ingress, improved vehicle recovery capabilities should the ACV need support, and improved protection for the vehicle’s suspension and steering from debris encountered on the battlefield, concertina wire in particular. So while the ACV is already in service, the Corps still has some work to do on the vehicle to ensure battlefield effectiveness and safety.

The Genetics Of Schizophrenia

We've known that schizophrenia, and schizophrenia subtypes have a strong genetic component for a long time. 

We are far from having a comprehensive genetic level understanding of the condition, but we have identified particular genes that play a major part in about half of the most severe and treatment resistant cases. 

Of course, even if we did have a comprehensive genetic understanding, that wouldn't itself, give us a cure or even a better treatment for it. But ultimately a better understanding of the condition and the various causes of this syndrome is worthwhile and is likely to lead to actionable knowledge in individual cases.

Extreme phenotype sequencing has led to the identification of high-impact rare genetic variants for many complex disorders but has not been applied to studies of severe schizophrenia. We sequenced 112 individuals with severe, extremely treatment-resistant schizophrenia, 218 individuals with typical schizophrenia, and 4,929 controls. 
We compared the burden of rare, damaging missense and loss-of-function variants between severe, extremely treatment-resistant schizophrenia, typical schizophrenia, and controls across mutation intolerant genes. Individuals with severe, extremely treatment-resistant schizophrenia had a high burden of rare loss-of-function (odds ratio, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.39 to 2.63; P = 7.8 × 10^−5) and damaging missense variants in intolerant genes (odds ratio, 2.90; 95% CI, 2.02 to 4.15; P = 3.2 × 10^−9). 
A total of 48.2% of individuals with severe, extremely treatment-resistant schizophrenia carried at least one rare, damaging missense or loss-of-function variant in intolerant genes compared to 29.8% of typical schizophrenia individuals (odds ratio, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.33 to 3.60; P = 1.6 × 10^−3) and 25.4% of controls (odds ratio, 2.74; 95% CI, 1.85 to 4.06; P = 2.9 × 10^−7). 
Restricting to genes previously associated with schizophrenia risk strengthened the enrichment with 8.9% of individuals with severe, extremely treatment-resistant schizophrenia carrying a damaging missense or loss-of-function variant compared to 2.3% of typical schizophrenia (odds ratio, 5.48; 95% CI, 1.52 to 19.74; P = 0.02) and 1.6% of controls (odds ratio, 5.82; 95% CI, 3.00 to 11.28; P = 2.6 × 10^−8). 
These results demonstrate the power of extreme phenotype case selection in psychiatric genetics and an approach to augment schizophrenia gene discovery efforts.
Anthony W. Zoghbi, , et al., "High-impact rare genetic variants in severe schizophrenia"118 (51) PNAS e2112560118 (December 21, 2021). 

14 December 2021


Prove to me that there is no Cosmic Breakfast Burrito Cat! (Banana for scale.)

09 December 2021

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Adultery And Illegitimacy Law But Were Afraid To Ask

If a legally married man has a child with another woman, what are the consequences for that child?

1. Who will be the legal father of this child in the child's birth certificate?

It depends upon how the process is handled. The mother's husband is the presumed parent whether or not he is listed on the birth certificate. In some states, "the other man" does not have the right to bring a paternity proceeding, although the husband or the mother would. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that this kind of limitation on paternity lawsuits is constitutional.

But, if the mother indicates the biological father's name on the birth certificate (some states require the biological father's voluntary acknowledgement as well), that can supersede this presumption.

The biological father always has some process (sometimes difficult for even a non-blameworthy father to comply with) to assert paternity in cases where the mother of the child is unmarried (or was unmarried at the time of conception at least), however, except that in a minority of U.S. states, rapists do not have the status of legal parents of their biological children with a rape victim.

There is usually a statute of limitations for the paternity of a father shown on a birth certificate to be contested for the purpose of using that as a defense to a child support claim.

Sometimes another statute of limitations applies, however, in other circumstances, such as a lawsuit to collect child support brought by the mother of the child, or the child, where paternity hasn't previously been established, or for inheritance purposes.

The exact process by which paternity is established when the biological parents are not married differs from state to state.

Some states (including California) permit a child to have more than two parents in some circumstances, and to have two parents who have the same sex in some circumstances.

The fact of a genetic parent-child relationship is, as a general rule, neither necessary, nor sufficient, to establish a parent-child relationship, although it is a very important factor to be considered by a court.

There is a special body of law governing paternity in cases of "assisted reproduction" (such as artificial insemination or when donated eggs are used or when there is a surrogate parent who gives birth to a child after having a fertilized egg from a different biological mother and father implanted in her). The majority rule in these cases, where assisted reproduction is intended and all parties to the process consent, is that an assisted reproduction agreement of the parties governs paternity. But not all possible scenarios have been the subject of clear law, and there is not uniformity among states regarding the relevant law.

For example, there is not much guidance regarding the legal considerations that apply in a case where a man artificially inseminates a woman causing her to become pregnant without her consent or knowledge at the time that this happens, and only subsequently learns what happens, or when the sperm of an intended sperm donor is substituted for sperm by another donor, in an artificial insemination procedure to which the woman otherwise consented.

Termination of parental rights and the parent-child relationship is something that, once established, is hard to effect legally in most cases and is a situation in which an indigent defendant facing a parental rights termination has a constitutional right to counsel. But termination of parental rights in adoptions, when the paternity of the father hasn't been established legally, can be done much more easily.

2. Can this child use her/his biological father's last name?

A child can have any name agreed to by the parents designated on the birth certificate. It is customary to assign a child the father's last name (unless no father is listed on the birth certificate or publicly disclosed), but in the United States, the issue of what someone is named is almost completely unregulated.

The child's surname, for example, does not have to be either the father's surname or the mother's surname. Many children, for example, have surnames that are hyphenations of their father's surname and their mother's surname, even if the parents did not change their names upon marriage.

The tradition in Iberia and much of Latin America is for children to take both their father's surname and their mother's surname in a double name surname which is often not hyphenated even though both parts of the name are part of the full surname. The U.S. allows parents to continue to follow this custom as a matter of law, although some governmental and private bureaucratic systems for dealing with people's names in computerized databases don't allow for these kinds of entries and also often disallow hyphens as characters in the name database entries.

The process for naming a child when two parents are designated and they can't agree varies from state to state. Usually, a court would decide, or an unmarried mother would decide.

Also, some states have the common law rule that your legal name includes any name by which you are commonly called and acknowledge as your own, even without a formal bureaucratic change on a birth certificate or other governmental legal process. Every state, however, also, at least, has a bureaucratic or court process by which a person's name can be changed.

3. Is it a crime to have a child outside of wedlock?

Giving birth itself, regardless of the circumstances, is never a crime in the United States.

Some sexual acts which can sometimes result in the conception of a child are crimes (most obviously rape and incest). Circumstances other than rape (including statutory rape and abuse of a position of trust rape), and incest, where a sexual act that can result in the conception of a child are a crime based upon the marital status of one or both of the parties to the sexual act are discussed below.

4. Is it a crime to have sex with another woman while you have married?

In a large majority of U.S. jurisdictions, adultery is no longer a crime (assuming the sexual act is consensual and not incestuous) including 33 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the several U.S. territories. "States which have decriminalised adultery in recent years include West Virginia (2010), Colorado (2013), New Hampshire (2014), Massachusetts (2018), and Utah (2019)."

Adultery is rarely enforced criminally in the 17 states, as of 2021, that still do have adultery laws on the books. This is, in part, due to doubts about the constitutionality of these crimes under federal and state constitutions, in part, due to changing norms, and in part, due to the limited benefit of a misdemeanor or felony prosecution to all persons involved (and the state) in such cases.

The birth of a child who is conceived with a father other than the mother's husband while the mother is married is not automatically conclusive proof of the crime of adultery under either state law or under the U.S. Code of Military Justice.

For example, under South Carolina law adultery involves either "the living together and carnal intercourse with each other" or, if those involved do not live together "habitual carnal intercourse with each other" which is more difficult to prove. Similarly, in Florida, the crime is "Living in open adultery".

Also, in the case of a prosecution of an unmarried man, knowledge that the woman is married would typically be an element of the crime of adultery, and it is similarly never a crime to be raped in the U.S., even if you are married.

In 13 of the states where adultery is still a crime (Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia), it is a petty offense (the maximum punishment in Maryland is a $10 fine), or is a misdemeanor. But it continues to be a felony in four states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and is punishable most severely among those states in Michigan who someone convicted of adultery faces up to four years in prison.

It is a crime that is actively enforced for active duty members of the U.S. military under the U.S. Code of Military Justice.

In the U.S. military, adultery is a potential court-martial offense, falling under the General article (Art. 134). The Manual for Courts-Martial defines (para. 99) "Extramarital sexual conduct" as being: 
Elements.(1) That the accused wrongfully engaged in extramarital conduct as described in subparagraph c.(2) with a certain person; (2) That, at the time, the accused knew that the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and (3) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was either: (i) to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces; (ii) was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces; or (iii) to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces and of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
U.S. military law on adultery was revised in 2019 in order to include same-sex encounters in the offense.

Neither the U.S. military, nor any U.S. state, has penalties for adultery that differ depending upon whether or not the adultery results in the birth of child.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of adultery crimes since its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) which decriminalized any kind of sex between consenting unmarried adults that does not constitute prostitution, as a matter of constitutional law (including sex between married adults with each other).

5. Is it crime to father a child outside of marriage?

No (assuming that rape or incest is not an issue).

Laws prohibiting unmarried consenting adults (or consenting adults who are married to each other) from having sex (including anal sex) or children (in non-incestuous relationships and not in violation of a position of trust) are unconstitutional in the United States pursuant to Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

So, even in states where there are laws prohibiting people who aren't married from having sex with each other or living with each other on the books (the former were called "fornication" laws, and the latter were laws prohibiting "cohabitation" of unmarried couples), those laws are unconstitutional (and in the case of laws barring cohabitation are also prohibited by federal fair housing statutes).

Unconstitutional fornication laws, which effectively make all forms of sex outside marriage illegal remain in the law books without being formally repealed in six states: Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah.

6. Civil Lawsuits Involving Adultery Or Rape

In a handful of U.S. states a husband can bring a lawsuit for money damages (called alienation of affections or "criminal conversation" despite the fact that it is a civil lawsuit) against someone who has sex with his wife. The vast majority of U.S. states have abolished such lawsuits, however.

In fiscal years 2000–2007, there were an average of 230 alienation of affections filings in North Carolina per year — a bit over 0.5% of the number of all divorces. The tort is also recognized in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah, but it is frequently litigated only in North Carolina and in Mississippi.

Many of the states where the tort is not commonly used impose restrictions on it that make it less attractive. In Illinois, Hawaii and New Mexico, these limitations make it exceedingly difficult to prevail in an alienation of affections case and recover substantial monetary damages. The standard of proof is lower in Utah and South Dakota, which continue to have actively litigated alienation of affections suits, although not used as often in these states as in North Carolina and Mississippi, for reasons that are presumably unrelated to the relevant legal standards that apply to these lawsuits.

Also, in a rape case, a rape victim can bring a civil lawsuit for money damages against the rapist for assault and battery in most cases, and in those cases, many states allow a spouse of a rape victim to bring a parallel lawsuit against the person who committed the assault that is called a lawsuit for loss of consortium. The right to sue for loss of consortium is not specific to rape cases; it applies in all lawsuits for personal injury where it is available.

Civil lawsuits involving rape can be subject to arbitration requirements by a pre-dispute contract between the parties to submit all disputes between them to arbitration (e.g. in a suit between an employee and an employer related to conduct that facilitated a co-worker's rape of the employee under sex discrimination laws).

7. Relevance To Divorce Cases

In most U.S. state, divorce is granted without regard to marital fault and adultery is not considered in alimony awards or property divisions.

While every U.S. state has some form of no fault divorce, and number of U.S. states also have fault based divorce, and a number of U.S. states, however, allow consideration of adultery as a form of marital fault in divorce proceedings, including how much, if any alimony is awarded and in property divisions.

No state would consider being raped an act of marital fault, however, even if this caused a wife to give birth to a child whose biological father was not her husband, and even if the husband wanted her to have an abortion.

8. Custody Rights And Parental Authority

Adultery generally can be considered in child custody cases only to the extent that it impacts paternity or it was something that a child perceived personally, because every U.S. jurisdiction uses a "best interests of the child" standard for making child custody decisions.

Parents do not automatically have priority over non-parents in proceedings to determine child custody (either parenting time or parental responsibilities and authority) although there is a strong presumption in favor of parents in such cases, even when termination of parental rights is not at issue. A legally recognized parent has a right to only minimal, roughly annual, sometimes supervised, visitation with a child.

Parents do not have the full rights of a legal guardian with respect to their children and the rights that they do have with respect to their children are often not spelled out affirmatively in detail in statutes or case law.

9. Child Support

When a child has parents who aren't married to each other, or are separated, a court may enter a child support order upon the request of either parent, a child or a legal representative of a child, or a social service agency that has paid welfare benefits to one of the parents. The amount of child support awarded is based upon the number of nights that the child spends with each parent each year, the respective incomes of the parties, extraordinary expenses, the number of shared and unshared children that the parties have, and other exceptional circumstances. Normally, there is a state formula that governs the baseline amount in the absence of extraordinary circumstances.

This area of the law is fairly uniform between states, despite being a matter of state law, because child support is subject to indirect federal regulation by conditioning federal welfare funding to states based upon following federal regulations related to child support. In particular, marital fault is not considered in entering child support orders. 

Child support debts have special preferences and rights in state law debt collection cases, and in bankruptcy, compared to many other kinds of debts.

10. Illegitimacy Law 

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is illegal for a U.S. law (including a state or local law) to treat a child born out of wedlock whose paternity is established differently from a child born to married parents. For example, the biological father of a child conceived in an act of prostitution with an unmarried mother can be legally established as the father of the child by the mother in every state. Prior to these rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, many states did not allow children born out of wedlock to inherit from the intestate estates of their fathers, and did not create a right to child support connected to children born out of wedlock.

Also, it was historically much harder for a child with a U.S. citizen father and a non-U.S. citizen mother born outside the United States to claim citizenship than it is today, although this still requires a legal process to establish citizenship that is more difficult than for other children when paternity was not promptly legally established between that father and that child.

But the courts have permitted fairly onerous burdens to be placed on a child or a father seeking to establish paternity in either an out of wedlock birth or a birth to a married woman when the biological father is not her husband.